wed 30/11/2022

Music Reissues Weekly: For Dancers Forty | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: For Dancers Forty

Music Reissues Weekly: For Dancers Forty

Fortieth-anniversary celebration of the mould-breaking 'For Dancers Only' collection

Z.Z. Hill and Mary Love check out the music biz trade papers

 “You Turned my Bitter Into Sweet” sounds like a hit. The 1965 Mary Love single was issued by the Los Angeles-based Kent label and had a Motown flavour and a hint of The Supremes’s “Come See About me”, from the previous year. “You Turned my Bitter Into Sweet” was a killer 45.

However, the single escaped widespread attention until 1982 when it became the opening cut of For Dancers Only, a top-drawer compilation of dancefloor-friendly soul sides. Its inclusion recognised that “You Turned my Bitter Into Sweet” had become a UK club staple when played out. In 1983, it reached even more ears by being included on mainstream music weekly NME’s cassette NME Ace Case.

For Dancers FortyMary Love wasn’t unknown though – her singles had been issued in the UK in the Sixties. She was also on the 1966 UK soul comps Soul Supply and Soul Sixteen. But until For Dancers Only, knowledge of her was limited to soul fans.

Over a decade on, For Dancers Only was a new type of compilation – one which, as its compiler Ady Croasdell puts it now, “brought the music back to the club sounds of the original mid-60s mods”. He had been DJing at and running the 6Ts Rhythm ‘N’ Soul club nights and knew Northern Soul wasn’t the only soundtrack for packing dancefloors.

That was 40 years ago, when For Dancers Only really did broaden-out how soul was recognised. It was a mould-breaking compilation. In part, it drew on the mod revival which had taken hold a few years earlier. But it also recognised shifts in what club-goers were digging.

Now, this important moment is recognised by the fresh collection For Dancers Forty, issued to mark the 40th-anniversary of For Dancers Only. Also compiled by Croasdell, it appears on the same label as back then and draws from the same source catalogues: the Kent and Modern labels. It’s a wonder they haven’t been strip-mined. Astoundingly, three of its 24 tracks are previously unissued. Another five were not issued at the time of their recording and had initially appeared on a series of soul collections issued between 1999 to 2019.

Seeking to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with For Dancers Only is tall order and, as was confirmed in 1982, tastes change meaning different flavours prick-up ears and shift feet. So, shrewdly, the new collection does not seek to recreate the vibe of forty years ago.

For Dancers OnlyEven so, Mary Love opens For Dancers Forty. This time it’s “Satisfied Feeling”, a 1967 B-side with a yearning melody line and an irresistible mid-tempo shuffle rhythm. Classy. Deviations from perhaps expected templates are telegraphed by Tommy Youngblood’s “Tobacco Road North”, a moody Southern Soul-leaning cut with a brooding atmosphere, and T-Bone Walker’s bluesy “Jealous Woman”. B.B. King’s swinging 1959 album track “I've Got Papers on You Baby” is the sort of thing which would have energised a Flamingo Club crowd in 1962. Pace-Setters’s “Freedom & Justice” (1972) is an organ-dominated instrumental edging towards funk. Beatrice Lee’s “Help Me” (1962) is early soul with a marked gospel influence. (pictured left, 1982's For Dancers Only)

Other selections are in keeping with has got people moving in any era. The Sweethearts’s wonderful “No More Tears” (1966) fits the bill, as do Clay Hammond “You Brought it all on Yourself” (1967) and Z.Z. Hill’s “Bearfootin’”-esque “That's it” (1965).

The palette has become broader than 1982. Another difference between then and now is that For Dancers Forty is fully annotated where For Dancers Only had minimal commentary – the booklet of the new release has an introductory essay, track-by-track notes and tons of pics. Times move on. But just as it was in 1982, great music always remains thus – whenever it surfaces. As much worth celebrating as the anniversary of For Dancers Only.

@MrKieronTyler

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